WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s decision to cut a deal with congressional Democrats appropriating emergency money for Hurricane Harvey and extending government funding and the debt ceiling has put Georgia Republicans in a tough spot.
All 10 of the state’s House GOP lawmakers have voted in lockstep with the president since he was sworn into office back in January, but many bristled on Thursday at the deal Trump blessed and the Senate passed that had been lobbed their way.
The bill would allow the government to spend billions more of borrowed money, some pointed out, and didn’t include any reforms to Washington’s spending habits to account for raising the debt limit. Not only that, but they felt pinched to support something they opposed on fiscal grounds out of sympathy for Hurricane Harvey victims.
“It’s one of those things where you’re left without a choice, which is what I don’t like,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans.
Several Georgia Republicans were still sorting out their feelings on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the Senate advanced the three-in-one bill on a bipartisan 80-17 vote.
Allen said he was still unsure about how he would vote on Friday, when the House is expected to consider the package.
“We have to do something,” the second-term Republican said. “I voted to do something (on Harvey) … and now we’ve got this.”
Also unsure were Buddy Carter of Pooler and Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, who both expressed reservations about such major pieces of legislation being bundled together.
“I doubt I’ll be able to vote for it,” Loudermilk said. “I understand we need to raise the debt ceiling, but we’ve been working to put reforms in there to cut spending in other areas so we don’t just keep revisiting this. And so by packaging this all together it further delays our ability to actually do effective reforms.”
A concrete “no” vote as of Thursday afternoon was Doug Collins of Gainesville, notable since he’s a member of the Republican leadership team.
“It goes without saying that I support our president,” he said in a statement to the AJC. “When we look at this particular deal, though, we see that it does everything that we’ve tried to move away from, and that’s an omnibus kind of vote that throws everything together.”
Leaders of the Republican Study Committee, a large group of conservative lawmakers, announced their opposition to the legislation earlier on Thursday. Meanwhile, influential outside groups such as Heritage Action and Club for Growth said they would consider Friday’s vote a “key vote” for their congressional report cards as a way to pressure lawmakers to reject the plan.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Friday morning.
Some Republicans reportedly fumed privately at Trump for cutting a deal with Democratic leaders so quickly earlier this week, a move that undercut GOP leaders in Congress who had hours earlier dismissed the Democrats’ opening offer.
Publicly, however, many GOP lawmakers went out of their way to emphasize that they were still supportive of the president and his agenda.
“This is just internal politics,” Loudermilk said. “We share the same ideas and goals and we’ll be working together to get there.”
Georgia’s two Republican U.S. Senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, both supported the spending package on Thursday. Both said it would be unwise to default on the debt.